FolkWorld #59 03/2016
© Seán Laffey

The Streams of Bunclody

The Streams of Bunclody

Oh[D] were I at the moss house
Where the[A] birds do in[D]crease
By the[A] foot of Mount[D] Leinster
Or[Em] some silent[A] place
By the streams of Bun[D]cloudy
Where all[Em] pleasures do[A] meet
And[D] all that I ask is
One[A] kiss from you[D] sweet

Oh the streams of Buncloudy
They flow down to the sea
By the streams of Buncloudy
I am longing to be
A-drinking stong liquor
At the height of my cheer
Here's a health to Buncloudy
And the lass I love dear

Oh the cuckoo is a pretty bird
And she sings as she flies
She brings us glad tidings
And she tells us no lies
She sucks all of the small birds' eggs
Just to make her voice clear
And the more she sings cuckoo
The summer draws near

If I were a clerk
And I could write a good hand
I would write to my true love
So that she'd understand
That I am a young fellow
Who is wounded in love
Once I lived in Buncloudy
But now must remove

So farewell to my father
And my mother adieu
To my sister and my brother
Farewell unto you
I am bound out for America
My fortune to try
When I think on Buncloudy
I am ready to die

 Watch The Streams of Bunclody from:   
     Emmet Spiceland, Luke Kelly

Songs That Made History: Liam Merriman and Eoin O'Meachair's new album's title The Birds Never Cease comes from the line in the Wexford song The Streams of Bunclody, writes Seán Laffey.

Liam Merriman and Eoin O'Meachair

Artist Video Liam Merriman & Eoin O'Meachair @ FW:

Liam and Eoin launched their album almost exactly 47 years after it was released on by the trio of Donal Lunny, Brian Byrne & Michael Byrne (the Emmet Spiceland). They had sung it five days before, on September 1st 1968, at the start of All Ireland Hurling Final between Wexford and Tipperary, to a crowd of 63,000 at Croke Park. The song and the Wexford team both proved to be winners, the song reaching number 8 in the charts and Wexford beating Tipp 5–8 to 3–12.

Bunclody means the End of the Clody, where the little River Clody enters the Slaney. The Moss house in the song gives us a clue to the date of its composition. Wexford historian Lucy Wall-Murphy describes the Moss house as "a rustic summer-house constructed of branches of trees, roofed with heather and moss, sited high up on the rock of Carrhill wood. Inside was seating where one could have a picnic or view the magnificent scenery, as the Moss house overlooked the Slaney as it flowed between the woods of Cuilaphuca and the lands of Drumderry."

The structure is called The Lady's Seat on the 1840 ordnance survey map, part of Lady Lucy Farnham's design for the desmense (now under the care of Coilte). She is said to have been responsible for the laying out of walks through the woodlands thropugh which she used to be carried in a sedan chair by four men. Lady Lucy Annesley married John Maxwell Baron Farnham on July 4th, 1789, she was just 17, she died in 1833. These dates narrow down the Irish origin of the song to no earlier than the end of the 18th century. The American song Pretty Saro shares many similarities with Bunclody, it's first verse runs:

When I first come to this country in Eighteen and Forty-nine
I saw many fair lovers but I never saw mine
I viewed it all around me, saw I was quite alone
and me a poor stranger and a long way from home

Bob Dylan recorded, but did not release, 6 versions of Pretty Saro in 1970, they are close to the contemporary Bunclody, compare his first verse to that of The Streams of Bunclody:

Down in some lone valley, in a sad lonesome place
Where the wild birds do all, their notes to increase

Liam Merriman & Eoin O Meachair: The Birds Never Cease
»I've long been an admirer of the work of Liam Merriman. I reviewed some of his solo albums for Hot Press and was always struck by the warmth of his voice, the depth and perception of his lyrics and the subtleties in his music. When I first heard him playing with Eoin O'Meachair, I thought I detected a spark, as if there been a bond between them even before they met. Eoin and Liam's album seems to get the mix spot on. It contains several of Liam's fine original songs, interpretations of other contemporary songs from both sides of the Atlantic, from Donovan, a Scotsman now living in Ireland, the American legend Tom Paxton and renowned English folkies Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick. They've breathed new life into old Irish tunes and along the way they drop in elements of rock and country and bluegrass.« (Jackie Hayden)

As Bunclody is a song of unrequited love and emigration, did it form a template for Pretty Saro? If so, then the 1840's might be a good point to begin looking for the Irish source of the song. Jim Carroll, the Clare based song collector, notes that it appears in an 1846 broadside. The song was sung locally to another, now lost melody. The air which has stuck like a limpet was first published in the 1939 edition of Irish Street Ballads by Colm Ó Lochlainn, the tune was from his father Dhomnhail.

It was the favourite song of Luke Kelly, collected from a chance meeting in an Enniscorthy pub with a school master called Michael Flannery. Both Luke Kelly's and the Emmet Spiceland's Croke Park versions are available to view on YouTube.

First published @ Irish Music Magazine 2015 (

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Liam Merriman & Eoin O'Meachair (unknown/website).

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